Midweek Review
The Philosophical Background of Jaffna culture

by K. S. Sivakumaran
For the first time an orderly-conducted workshop or rather a session of reviews by many hands on an important book in Tamil was held at Saraswathi Hall in Colombo in that language on the Poya day in October last.

The book was titled "Yaalpaana Kalasarathin Thathuva Pinnani" meaning "The Philosophical Background of the Culture of Jaffna" and authored by Dr.V.Ramakrishnan.The writer was formerly a professor of philosophy in the University of Peradeniya and other places both here and in India.

This book is not a fully-fledged researched book but merely a text of a memorial lecture delivered by the author on the late professor of Jaffna University, Dr.Selvanayagam.The author throws a lot of ideas in his lecture so that interested people could be stimulated to offer criticisms and endorsements of his premises.The primary concept of the author is that Jaffna culture is based on love as promulgated in the Saiva Siddhanta, an important constituent of Hinduism.’Anbae Sivam’( Love is Lord Siva) is one of the maxims of Saiva Siddhantha of the Tamils. Dr.Ramakrishnan also alludes to the late Yoga Swami of Jaffna. (Ellam Mudintha Kathai-It’s a Foregone Story- and Summa Irupathae Suham-Just being idle is Comfort- are two of the aphorisms of Yoga Swami)

This forum was organized by The Hindu Maa Mantram activated by well known Lawyer Kanthiah Neelakantan. Most of the reviewers were from the legal profession. Some of them were academics,journalists and socially involved participants. The panel included the following speakers and participants:

Chairman and moderator was Justice C.V.Wigneswaran, who also made a welcoming speech with clarity and precision.

The book was reviewed from different angles. Prof.K.Sivathamby (Sociolo-gy),Prof.S.Santhirasegeram (Education), Colombo University Law Faculty Senior Lecturer V.T.Tamilmaran (Human Rights and Law), President’s Councellor Kanag-Iswaran (Thesawalamai), Women’s Educational Research Centre Director Dr.Selvy Thiruchandran (Women’s Rights), Additional Secretary of Ministry of Education, Thillai Nadarajah (Writing), Thinakutal Editor-in-Chief A.Sivanesachelvan (Retracing Old Manuscripts)and lawyer Mahesan Kanapathy(writer- he read a version the author). Peradeniya University professor A.Sivarajah who was to look at the book from a political angle did not turn up.

Most analysts confined themselves to their specialized subjects and that was exemplary.The views expressed by the speakers on relevant and controversial issues might not have been readily accepted by the audience of twenty present as a whole because there were traditionalists and new thinkers among them. However, Sivathamby, Santhiraseegeram, Tamilmaran and Kanag-Iswaran articulated their ideas well in a broad sweep of contemporary thinking. The same could be said of feminist Selvi Thiruchandran’s presentation though it was underpinned with a little sarcasm- mainly on how women are treat red by a male dominated society. Sivanesachelvan and Thillaim Nadarajah could have organized their thoughts in appointed manner. However they described the practical difficulties in engaging research on such subjects as going back to the roots of the Jaffna culture. In fact it was the main point stressed by almost all speakers.

Among the others who expressed their views were Colombo Hindu College deputy principal,T.Rajaratnam,lawyers K.Sivanathan,A.R.Surendran. Former editor in chief of Thinakaran and the Presidents of the Colombo Tamil Sangam R. Sivagurunathan, young thinker, publisher and printer G.Kumaran and K.S.Sivakumaran

The author, Prof.V.Ramakrishnan agreed to rewrite the book in a readable form incorporating the different views expressed in the seminar as his booklet was only a talk prepared on fragmented memories. he also said that as a refugee he had had not the necessary facilities to continue his research.

Reiterating his premise that the traditional Jaffna culture was based on love as spelt out in Saiva Siddhanta philosophy, but materialism has eroded the roots of such culture.But the critics did not necessarily agree on Ramakrishnan’s views although they agreed that he has given enough threads to work on some of his valuable points. That indeed was his expectations, the learned professor said at the end.Educational aspirations and the Thesavalamai of the peninsular Tamils were the key points of discussion.

Ironically, Dr.Ramakrishnan was a card-carrying member of the Ceylon Communist Party based in Trincomalee before he took the line of ‘loving the humankind’ transcending all barriers.This Jaffna man was born in Malaysia and had most of his living in Peradeniya,Trincomalee, Batticaloa, and also Banares and Chennai in India- he has taught at these places.

May I add that to understand the energetic, enterprising, hard working and exceptionally education-orientated Jaffna people, one must read the findings of scholars like Sivathamby and Ramakrishnan and other researchers. But unfortunately their books are only in Tamil. They should write their books in English in the first instance and then translate at least in Sinhala,the language of the majority in this country. Much of the calamities that the Tamil people are undergoing in Sri Lanka can be productively told to the magnanimous and friendly Sinhala people and get their assistance in solving our problems if only the Tamils and Muslims communicate in Sinhala, even if the Sinhalese people do not want to learn the Tamil language. It is a pity an admirable community such as the Sinhala people do not want to learn Tamil, the language of their brethren, but would seek to learn Russian,Chinese,French,German,Japanese and Arabic.

This writer who was an invitee at the above ‘workshop’ found that valuable and interpretative knowledge could be gathered in similar seminars in a sober,intellectual atmosphere. Meeting the minds of the Sinhala intellectuals in such group ethnic seminars (trilingual) would be more rewarding than shedding blood.